A front suspension upgrade performed on a 1996 Saab 900SE turbo. The goal was to replace the old and worn components with new parts. The pictures show the work done at the right front corner. Parts from Taliaferro Imports, shox.com and eBay. See also the rear suspension installation.

The job took me several days, as you can see from the dates on the photos. Unfortunately, I was short on spare time and could only spend a couple of hours a day in the evening. With all the tools at hand, proper preparations, and without the unexpected interruptions, the work can be done in one day. A second person would speed things up as well.

Tools and supplies:

  • 32 mm (1¼") socket: hub centre nut;
  • 24 mm wrench: retainer nut on top of the strut, new outer bushing bolt;
  • 18 mm socket: tie rod nut;
  • 18 mm wrench: ball joint nut;
  • 17 mm socket: wheel bolts;
  • 16 mm socket: stanchion arm to subframe bolt;
  • 15 mm socket: control arm to subframe bolt;
  • 13 mm socket: lower sway bar link nut, strut mount nuts;
  • 11 mm socket: top of the original damper rod;
  • 11 mm open wrench: upper part of sway bar link;
  • 10 mm socket: belt shield screws;
  • 10 mm Allen key: caliper bolts;
  • 8 mm socket: belt shield screws;
  • 7 mm Allen key: top of the Bilstein damper rod;
  • 5 mm Allen key: ABS sensor screws, rotor index screw;
  • Torx T55 key: original stanchion arm to control arm bolt;
  • torque wrench;
  • pipe wrench (60 mm): strut insert sleeve nut;
  • car jack and axle stands;
  • ball joint separator or large Pitman gear puller;
  • spring compressor;
  • C-clamp: for tightening tie rod ends;
  • breaker bar;
  • vice-grips;
  • large screw extractor (6 mm);
  • hammer and rubber mallet;
  • loctite, anti-seize, silicone/moly chassis grease, rust solvent.
10.02.2005
Centre cap

With the car still on the ground, remove the centre cap from the wheel and spray the axle nut with a lubricant.
10.02.2005
Axle nut

Here's a close-up of the axle hut. It might be a good idea to clean the thread with a wire brush too.
10.02.2005
Axle nut

Loosen the nut using a 32 mm socket (a 1¼" will do too) and a breaker bar.
10.02.2005
Wheel nuts

Loosen the wheel bolts too (you'll need a deep 17 mm socket for that).
10.02.2005
Jacks

Raise the car, put it on jack stands and take off the wheels. The car is filthy: this is what Ontario roads do to your car in winter. I washed it just a couple of days ago.
10.02.2005
Axle nut

Remove the axle nut. Take your time spraying all other fasteners with your favourite rust solvent.
10.02.2005
Tie rod end

Undo the tie rod end nut using an 18 mm socket. Remove the nut completely, clean and lubricate the thread, and put the nut back on a few turns to provide a base for the next step.
10.02.2005
Gear puller

Use a ball joint separator or gear puller to push out the tie rod end. If you didn't fully remove the nut prior to that, and it gets stuck, there won't be enough friction to turn the nut anymore, it will just spin in the ball joint. Guess how I know that ;)
10.02.2005
Clamp

If you were unfortunate enough to make this mistake, clamp the tie rod end to the strut and unbolt the stuck nut. You will also need to use the clamp when assembling the thing later.
10.02.2005
Sway bar link

Disconnect the sway bar link from the control arm. Use a 13 mm socket on the nut below, and hold the top with a 11 mm open wrench. The left side link on my car snapped when I tried to undo the nut (too much rust). A new one was $50 at the dealer.
10.02.2005
ABS sensor

An engineer who decided to use tiny bolts with a 5 mm Allen head for ABS sensors should be prosecuted. With this much rust, the head instantly rounds off when you first attempt to unbolt it, and then snaps completely when you try to finish the job with vice-grips. To avoid that, undo the bolt that holds the sensor bracket instead: it's also a 5 mm Allen, but its thread is not exposed to moisture.
11.02.2005
The car

This is the car sitting in the garage. Luckily, I didn't have to hurry with finishing the work this time as we had the 9-5 to drive around.
12.02.2005
Belt shield

The plastic belt shield has to be removed in order to gain the access to the inner control arm bolt. It is held by assorted screws with 8 mm and 10 mm hex heads.
12.02.2005
Rotor screw

The brake rotor index screw also has a 5 mm Allen head. Translation from Rusty Saab: "with this much surface area, the bolt head will round off in no time, so you will need a drill, a screw extractor, and a new $4 bolt from the dealer."
12.02.2005
Caliper bolts

The caliper bolts take a 10 mm Allen key. Finally, a hex key big enough not to strip the head.
12.02.2005
Caliper

Compress the caliper so it becomes free from the rotor, pull it away and hang on a piece of wire to keep the brake line free from the caliper's heavy weight.
12.02.2005
Control arm

The control arm bolt is accessible in the opening from below the subframe (15 mm socket). I decided to take this route to skip the fight with the ball joint on the car.
12.02.2005
Stanchion arm

The stanchion arm is bolted to the subframe from below (16 mm socket). You don't really need to remove it completely, but I wanted to inspect the bushing, and it's also easier to remove the old push nut when the arm is off the car.
12.02.2005
Driveshaft

With the control arm disconnected from the subframe, there's enough play to pull the driveshaft out of the hub. Once the driveshaft is out of the way, you can unbolt the stanchion arm from the outer bushing (Torx T55).
12.02.2005
Stanchion arm

Move the stanchion arm away. The strut is now hanging on the upper mount.
12.02.2005
Strut mount

Carefully undo the strut mount nuts (13 mm socket) and remove the strut assembly from the car.
12.02.2005
Stanchion arm

The stanchion arm on the ground. Now you have removed everything there is to remove ;).
12.02.2005
Strut assembly

With the strut assembly on the floor, it's easy to unbolt and separate the ball joint. First, undo the nut (18 mm).
12.02.2005
Ball joint

Then use a gear puller or a screw-type ball joint separator to break the bond. The use of fork-type ball joint splitters is not recommended as they often damage the rubber boot.
12.02.2005
Top nut

Loosen the retainer nut on top of the strut. You will need a 24 mm wrench for the nut and a 11 mm socket to hold the damper rod. Another alternative is to use an impact wrench to loosen the nut (the former method does not work on 9-3s as they have different strut mounts and the nut is harder to reach).
12.02.2005
Spring compressor

Do not remove the nut completely: the spring is under load, and releasing it can cause an injury. Attach a spring compressor tool and tighten it until the spring becomes loose in the housing. Remove the top nut, the strut mount and other parts, then carefully release the tension of the spring.
12.02.2005
Disassembled

Clockwise: top nut (do not reuse it!), washer, strut mount, thrust bearing, another washer, spring support, bump stop, strut with damper, spring. Remember how the washers were fitted: the edges on the top washer should point up, while on the bottom washer they should point down.
12.02.2005
Strut insert

The strut insert is secured by a 60 mm sleeve nut. I didn't have anything big enough, so I took it to the nearest mechanic. They put it in a vice and used the biggest pipe wrench I've ever seen. Two minutes, and the job was done, didn't even take the money.
12.02.2005
Push nut

The old push nut in the stanchion arm is no longer needed if you're installing the bushings from Taliaferro, which come with a bigger bolt. A few blows with a heavy hammer will do the job.
12.02.2005
Inner bushing

The inner control arm bushing is a simple rubber piece with a metal insert, so you can easily press it out with a gear puller.
12.02.2005
Outer bushing

The outer bushing can also be pressed out, just use a larger gear puller. This bushing is of a hydraulic type, so bring a pan to catch the oil.
12.02.2005
Sleeve

The metal sleeve of the outer bushing can be pressed out if you have a press. If you don't, you can saw cut the sleeve and remove it with a chisel. This will destroy it though, but who cares, we have a box full of nice new poly bushings ;)
13.02.2005
Bushings

The new bushings are a two piece design with a metal insert in the middle. Prepare some silicone/moly grease to lubricate them.
13.02.2005
Bushings

The bushings are very snug, but you don't need a press to put them in. Most of the job can be done with your bare hands with a little help from a rubber mallet.
13.02.2005
Arms

Put the control and stanchion arms back on, but don't tighten the bolts yet. Move the driveshaft out of the way and connect the arms at the outer bushing.
13.02.2005
New bolt

Insert the new bolt that comes with the bushings and tighten it to 120 ft-lbs using a pair of 24 mm wrenches. After that tighten the bolts that attach the arms to the subframe. Control arm: 85 ft-lbs, stanchion arm: 78 ft-lbs plus 90°.
13.02.2005
New vs old

Intrax springs have one coil less than the original, so they are more than an inch shorter, but also stiffer. Bilstein dampers are only a few millimetres shorter, but look much more serious. They come with their own dust shield, which does not include a bump stop (this is by design). The sleeve nut is also different.
13.02.2005
Strut insert

Here's the new damper fitted into the strut. I didn't have a torque wrench that goes up to 160 ft-lbs, so I just put some loctite on the threads and tightened it as hard as I could.
13.02.2005
Spring

A spring has to be compressed before it's put back on.
13.02.2005
Thrust bearings

Here's a new SKF thrust bearing vs whatever was on the car before. You can see the damage on the body of the old bearing. Just a bit more, and it would've split in half.
13.02.2005
Assembling

I used the original spring support and washers, but replaced strut mounts and bearings. The new top nut that came with Bilstein dampers is the same size as the original, but the grip on top of the rod is different, you need a 7 mm Allen key for it.
13.02.2005
Strut complete

Make sure the spring fits both top and bottom supports correctly, with the end of the coil against the spring stops. The top nut should be secured well enough, but not yet to the spec, you'll need to do that later.
14.02.2005
Strut mount

Fit the strut on the car and put the strut mount nuts on. Note that the rearmost nut has a washer, while the other two don't. Tighten the nuts alternately at 13 ft-lbs (13 mm socket).
14.02.2005
Driveshaft

Tilt the strut and insert the driveshaft into the hub. Fit the top washer and bushing onto the sway bar link. Prepare a new ball joint nut (do not reuse the old one).
14.02.2005
Ball joint

Insert the ball joint rod into the strut and put the nut on. Jack up the base of the strut to force the ball joint in and prevent it from spinning. Tighten the nut to 55 ft-lbs (18 mm wrench).
14.02.2005
Tie rod end

Clamp the tie rod end and tighten the nut to 45 ft-lbs (18 mm socket).
14.02.2005
Sway bar

Put the lower bushing and washer on the sway bar link. Use an 11 mm open wrench to hold the link at the top end, and a 13 mm wrench to tighten the nut (8 ft-lbs)
14.02.2005
Brakes

Fit the ABS sensor and the brake rotor. Clean the hub before fitting the rotor and apply some anti-seize to the hub and the rotor index screw. Do not tighten the screw too much, unless you want to drill it out again.
14.02.2005
Caliper

Put the brake caliper back on, apply some loctite to the bolts and tighten them to 87 ft-lbs (10 mm Allen key). Bolt on a new hub centre nut (do not reuse the old one), but do not tighten it completely yet. Stick a screwdriver into the rotor to prevent it from spinning.
14.02.2005
Strut

Attach the belt shield. Fit the wheels and tighten the bolts to 84 ft-lbs. Lower the car to the ground.
15.02.2005
Hub centre nut

The hub nut (32 mm) should be tightened at 214 ft-lbs. I don't have a torque wrench that goes that high, but 140 lbs of my weight applied to a foot-and-a-half long breaker bar should work out about right.
15.02.2005
Final_touch

With the wheels on the ground, tighten the upper nut on the damper to 66 ft-lbs (24 mm wrench and a 7 mm Allen key). Congratulations, you have just finished rebuilding your front suspension!

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